The Little Drum and Percussion Page


Clave and Bells

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Clave is the Spanish word for key and the clave can be seen as the key to the rhythm. Claves refers to the two short pieces of wood which are struck together to make the high pitched sound that flows through most Cuban music.

It is important to note that the clave (in 4/4 time) runs over two bars and has three beats in one bar and two in the other. The bars are interchangeable so that the clave can be played in the two-three, or, the three-two direction. The clave is axiom (ie. 'everything revolves around it') to Salsa music and a 3/2 clave will not work comfortably with a piece of music which has been arranged around a 2/3 clave and vice versa. Cuban musicians and accomplished Salsa musicians feel the clave in the music rather than the rigid 'one-two-three-four' beats that most Western musicians relate to and rely upon.

Perhaps the most widely used clave is the 3-2 Son Clave which sounds a bit like the theme of that old fifties Rock song "Bo Diddley". In fact many tunes and songs that are not otherwise Latin may feature a clave in the background or up front played by another instrument.



Cascara - Timbales

Figures 1 and 2 show the "Cascara" pattern, which is sometimes played on a cowbell, with the clave written on the bottom line. Figures 3 and 4 show the "Mambo" bell pattern  with the respective clave. A right-handed player will play the bell part with the right hand and the clave with the left hand

1    Cascara Bell with Clave in 2-3 Direction

Midi File

2    Cascara Bell with Clave in 3-2 Direction

Midi File

3    Mambo Bell with Clave in 2-3 Direction

Midi File

4    Mambo Bell with Clave in 3-2 Direction

Midi File


Ago Go Bell

Here are three patterns for the two-toned Ago Go Bell, synonymous with the sound of Samba.

Come back soon for more patterns, midi files and much more. If you have any comments, questions or Suggestions, please e-mail them to:-


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